Hospitals and health centres in the Hama region of Syria are working at minimum capacity and are waiting for much needed support.
In Hama Province in western Syria, the health directorate has been informed that it will no longer be receiving support from regional and international health organisations. According to Ibrahim al-Shamali, an official in the Health Directorate, support for the directorate was suspended as of the 1st of January 2019. Some have speculated that this was done due to Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham’s (HTS) recent takeover of nearby cities. This has led to the closure of over four health centres with the risk of many hospitals, blood banks and health centres shutting down soon if the issue isn’t resolved.
“I expect these centres to continue working for around three months because those centres do not have any support, neither for operational expenses nor salaries of employees,” said al-Shimali.
The area most affected by this suspension of aid is the Ghab Plains, which houses over 200,000 residents, a third of whom are children. Al-Shimali said that because these hospitals and health centres are providing free medical services and medicine to the residents, they are now operating at minimum capacity with many of the medical staff providing voluntary services.
Given that the city of Hama lies near Idlib Province, it has recently witnessed many clashes between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), rebels and militant groups, most prominently HTS and Jaish al-Izza.
“We affirm that the Health Directorate of Hama is a neutral civil institution that has nothing to do with political and military disputes on the ground and we provide free medical services to civilians in Hama Governorate,” said al-Shimali.
During HTS’ recent takeover of Idlib and nearby cities, the militant group saw the Hama Health Directorate as a threat, arresting dozens of health professionals and looting medical centres. This could explain the reasoning behind the recent suspension of support.
As the SAA’s operation to retake Idlib seems imminent, thousands of civilian lives, mostly women and children, are at risk of dying not only from the military operations but also due to the lack of medical support and aid.